Cardinal Speaks Again on Amoris Laetitia: How much longer will this game go on?

Cardinal Speaks Again on Amoris Laetitia: How much longer will this game go on?

by Christopher A. Ferrara
February 2, 2017

Two previous columns on this subject, found here [Cardinal Müller Covers His Eyes] and here [More on Cardinal Müller’s Blindfold], discussed the blindfold that Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), seems to have donned — or that was forced upon him — respecting the blatant opening in Amoris Laetitia (AL) to Holy Communion for public adulterers in “second marriages”, particularly in the key passages found in Chapter VIII, ¶¶ 300-305. Müller insists there is nothing amiss with AL, that the document is in accord with traditional teaching, and that the dubia the four cardinals (Brandmuller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner) have presented are unwarranted and even temerarious. [Louie Verecchio at AKACatholic puts it more strongly in The face of diabolical disorientation: “Cardinal Gerhard Müller is quickly becoming the Poster Prelate of Diabolical Disorientation …”]

But now comes an interview of Müller published in the Italian magazine “Il Timone” wherein, as the always-astute Sandro Magister notes, the Cardinal is clearly engaged in a stealth correction of Francis. There is no reasonable doubt that Müller is taking aim at precisely that interpretation of AL concerning which Francis himself has declared “there is no other interpretation”: i.e., that in “certain cases” people engaged in continuing adultery denominated a “second marriage” may, based on the subjective judgment of the individual conscience via “discernment” (AL ¶ 300-305), receive Holy Communion while persisting in adulterous carnal relations.

Consider these questions and answers from the interview (translation by Magister):

Q: Can there be a contradiction between doctrine and personal conscience?

A: No, that is impossible. For example, it cannot be said that there are circumstances according to which an act of adultery does not constitute a mortal sin. For Catholic doctrine, it is impossible for mortal sin to coexist with sanctifying grace. In order to overcome this absurd contradiction, Christ has instituted for the faithful the Sacrament of penance and reconciliation with God and with the Church.

Q: The exhortation of Saint John Paul II, “Familiaris Consortio,” stipulates that divorced and remarried couples that cannot separate, in order to receive the sacraments must commit to live in continence. Is this requirement still valid?

A: Of course, it is not dispensable, because it is not only a positive law of John Paul II, but he expressed an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments. The confusion on this point also concerns the failure to accept the encyclical “Veritatis Splendor,” with the clear doctrine of the “intrinsece malum.” […] For us marriage is the expression of participation in the unity between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride. This is not, as some said during the Synod, a simple vague analogy. No! This is the substance of the sacrament, and no power in heaven or on earth, neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change it.

This is simply staggering. Müller here declares to be “impossible” and an “absurd contradiction” the very thing he knows full well Francis has explicitly authorized in his letter to the bishops of Buenos Aires and also implicitly authorized by publication in L’Osservatore Romano of the “guidelines” of the Maltese bishops permitting — nay, mandating — the admission to Holy Communion of any member of the faithful who “discerns” that he is “at peace with God” despite living in adultery.

Moreover, Müller affirms that the teaching of John Paul II on the “intrinsic impossibility” of public adulterers partaking of the Blessed Sacrament without an amendment of life is “not dispensable” and is “not only a positive law of John Paul II” but also “an essential element of Christian moral theology and the theology of the sacraments.”

Finally, and most staggeringly, Müller declares that “neither an angel, nor the pope, nor a council, nor a law of the bishops, has the faculty to change” the very Eucharistic discipline whose overthrow Francis clearly condones. That revolution is now underway — with Francis’ obvious approval — in Buenos Aires, Malta, Germany, Austria, certain American dioceses, the very Diocese of Rome and a growing number of other places throughout the Catholic world — while other dioceses try to maintain the traditional teaching and discipline against the storm Francis has unleashed.

And yet, in this most recent interview, Müller continues to pretend that what is happening has nothing to do with Francis and his disastrous document. Instead, he blames “so many bishops” for “interpreting ‘Amoris Laetitia’ according to their way of understanding the pope’s teaching. This does not keep to the line of Catholic doctrine.” Please! It is the Pope’s explicitly stated understanding of his own teaching, conveyed in writing to the bishops of Buenos Aires, that does not “keep the line of Catholic doctrine.”

Müller continues: “The magisterium of the pope is interpreted only by him or through the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. The pope interprets the bishops, it is not the bishops who interpret the pope, this would constitute an inversion of the structure of the Catholic Church.” But Francis has already made it clear to the bishops that “there is no other interpretation” of AL than the one now being implemented in the revolutionary dioceses, to which Francis has provided nothing but a green light.

The bishops whom Müller attempts to make solely responsible for the debacle whose origin is the Pope’s own document are, says Müller, running “the risk of the blind leading the blind.” But what of the Pope who says “there is no other interpretation” of AL than the very one they have given the document?

With remarkable disingenuousness, Müller warns the bishops following Francis’ lead to avoid “entering into any casuistry that can easily generate misunderstandings, above all that according to which if love dies, then the marriage bond is dead. These are sophistries: the Word of God is very clear and the Church does not accept the secularization of marriage.” But the casuistry in question emerges directly from the pages of AL, ¶¶ 300-305: i.e., that through “discernment” of the “complexity of one’s limits” a particular public adulterer can be deemed unburdened by mortal sin and admitted to Holy Communion while continuing sexual relations with someone to whom he is not married, whereas another public adulterer might not be deemed admissible because his “limits” are insufficient to excuse his adultery. And what is this if not a kind of neo-Pharisaical casuistry, just as Bishop Athanasius Schneider suggests?

And, finally, the pretense that underlies this entire charade: “It is not ‘Amoris Laetitia’ that has provoked a confused interpretation, but some confused interpreters of it.” Given the events that have followed in rapid succession immediately after AL’s appearance, including the Pope’s own statements, Cardinal Müller cannot possibly expect any reasonably informed member of the faithful to take his affirmation seriously.

So the question presents itself: How much longer will this game go on? That is, how much longer will Müller facilitate Francis’ clearly subversive designs by falsely suggesting that Francis does not approve their implementation by the very bishops who are his obvious collaborators?

Müller himself declares that “neither an angel, nor the pope” has the power to change the teaching now being overthrown in diocese after diocese. It is long past time for Müller, joining the four courageous cardinals who have publicly presented their dubia to Francis, to drop the pretense and do everything in his power, publicly as well as privately, to address the rapidly spreading collapse of traditional sacramental discipline at its astonishing source: the current occupant of the Chair of Peter.

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4 comments on “Cardinal Speaks Again on Amoris Laetitia: How much longer will this game go on?

  1. Regarding Cardinal Müller and Amoris, Jimmy Akin Throws Up His Hands

    by Christopher A. Ferrara
    February 3, 2017

    Jimmy Akin, a “Senior Apologist” for Catholic Answers, has spent the last several years writing one column after another concerning the latest Bergoglian bombshell under the running title “Things to Know and Share.” The number of “things to know and share” about what Francis has said or done on a particular occasion varies according to the difficulty of attempting to explain away the resulting scandal and confusion.

    But the latest installment of Akin’s whitewash series evinces a man who is completely stumped and doesn’t know which way to go. Akin has no fewer than twelve “things to know and share” regarding the development that my column addressed yesterday: i.e., Cardinal Müller’s stealth correction of Amoris Laetita (AL), which the Cardinal continues to pretend is perfectly sound and orthodox even as he denounces the very interpretation Francis has given it. By the end of his list of twelve things, however, Akin has tied himself into a knot and offered nothing but further confusion.

    Akin’s piece begins by grudgingly admitting in its subtitle that “It appears that Cardinal Müller has his own views about how ‘Amoris Laetitia’ should be interpreted and that these views differ from the way Pope Francis would like to see the document interpreted.” I say grudgingly, because Cardinal Müller has not given us his “views” but rather the authentic teaching of the Magisterium, which the Cardinal, most unfortunately, pretends is in no way contradicted or undermined by AL.

    Akin admits — in the second of his “twelve things to know and share” — that the interpretation of AL that would allow certain people living in second marriages to continue their relations while receiving Holy Communion “would be at variance with the historic Catholic understanding because such couples would not be validly married to each other and thus sexual relations between them would be adulterous.” Like Cardinal Müller, however, he fails to note that this is the very interpretation approved by Francis in his letter to the bishops of Buenos Aires.

    “Things to know and share” nos. 3-11 shed no light on the controversy. Quite the contrary, Akin (at no. 6) professes to find “somewhat puzzling” Müller’s statement that “it is impossible for mortal sin to coexist with sanctifying grace. In order to overcome this absurd contradiction, Christ has instituted for the faithful the Sacrament of penance and reconciliation with God and with the Church.”

    Akin here quibbles about whether every objective mortal sin meets the conditions for subjective culpability (grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent), but Müller is obviously referring to the objective condition of adultery and the intrinsic impossibility that one continuously engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage can partake of the Blessed Sacrament while knowingly continuing to commit the same sin. And who doesn’t know that the Church, following the instruction of Our Lord, teaches that divorce and “remarriage” always constitute adultery?

    Near the end of his piece, having gotten exactly nowhere with his useless analysis, Akin (at no. 11) finally admits: “It therefore appears that Cardinal Müller is giving his own views about how the document should be interpreted and that these views differ from the way Pope Francis would like to see the document interpreted.” Exactly so! Except, as noted above, that Müller’s “views” are actually the irreformable teaching of the Church.

    And then we arrive at Akin’s simply ridiculous conclusion:

    “12) For the pope and the head of the CDF to disagree on a point like this seems very serious. What should we do?

    “Pray for them both — and for the Church as a whole.”

    Really? Pray for them both? Thanks for nothing, Mr. Akin. But a few obvious points present themselves:

    • Why should we “pray for them both” if Müller is correct that AL comports with his traditional interpretation of it? If AL is simply a traditional document, as Müller claims, what is there to pray for? We should, rather, give thanks that Francis has given us a totally traditional presentation of Church teaching.

    • On the other hand, if Francis, the author of AL, disagrees with Müller’s traditional reading of it, then AL can only be a heterodox document, in which case why pray for Müller as opposed to the Pope who has foisted a heterodox apostolic exhortation upon the Church?

    • If the Pope and Müller “disagree on a point like this,” is it not the case that one party must be right and the other wrong?

    • How do we know which party is right and which is wrong?
    Akin ducks all these questions by arguing that “Pope Francis has not issued an authentic interpretation of the disputed points in Amoris Laetitia, nor has he authorized the CDF to publish one.”

    So, Akin’s bottom line is zero: nobody — not even the head of the CDF! — can know what AL really means until Francis tells us what it really means via an “authentic” interpretation. But what if Francis never issues an “authentic” interpretation and simply allows his heterodox “private” interpretation to proliferate throughout the Church, winking, nodding, and otherwise hinting that this is exactly what he wants to happen? Or, even worse, what if Francis were to issue his “authentic” interpretation and it corresponded exactly to what he has written to the bishops of Buenos Aires: i.e., that certain public adulterers, based on “discernment,” may receive Holy Communion without ceasing their adulterous relations — thus overturning the contrary teaching of Benedict XVI, John Paul II and all of Tradition? How many things would Mr. Akin want us to “know and share” then?

    As we can see from Akin’s futile commentary, the Amoris Laetitia affair is as absurd as it is damaging to the Church. Such is the result of the pretense that a plainly heterodox document is either orthodox (Müller) or inscrutable (Akin). Never in 2,000 years has the Church been confronted with such a frightful mess emanating from the Holy See.

  2. In the past there have been very good converts who became articulate in the defense of the faith and in evangelization. Certainly Cardinal Newman and G.K. Chesterton helped to bring many to the Catholic faith. More recent converts to Novus Ordo modernism and modernist American Catholicism come in different varieties. A Catholic writer really needs some training in Catholic theology or familiarity with progressive modernism since the 1960s and 1970s to be able to address the Bergoglian phenomenon. Bergoglian modernism comes out of the progressive modernist wing of the Society of Jesus, particularly from South American modernism. Bergoglio’s ideas have a lot of similarity with Robert Drinan, S.J., Hans Küng , Charles Curran, Richard McBrien, the late modernist Cardinal Bernardin, Liberation theology, and the modernist style of Situation Ethics promoted among Commonweal types in the 1970s and the modernist circles of the old Weston School of Theology which pretty much finished off what was left of the American branch of the Jesuit order in the 1980s. In other words, they are out of date and from the spiritual and moral counterculture of the 1970s when the Spirit of Vatican II was storming through Catholic institutions which are now post-Catholic. These can’t be whitewashed by a convert, however naïve and earnest in their attempt to prop up Bergoglio, modernism, and Vatican II. There is a reason for the dubia. These problems are not going to go away just because some fools are mesmerized by the personality cult of Pope Francis and the modernism of Vatican II.

    • Right on, Howl.
      One of the tragedies of the Neo-Modernist takeover of the Church since the early 1900s is that what few converts we get are often converts to Modernism, not Catholicsim. Another crime perpetrated by the traitors to the Faith.
      BTW, another of pope Francis’ influences is Fr. Gerard Hughes, author of ‘God of Surprises’.
      For those interested, here’s a good introduction to its author: www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/06/gerard-w-hughes
      If you like black humor, here’s an amusing quote from Hughes’ mother; what she told him when he decided to go become a Jesuit (1930s): “Know you will always be welcome back again,” his mother told him, “and don’t become odd like so many of them.”
      He must have been a great disappointment to her.
      The Guardian article mentions that his writing helped many Catholics stay in the Church. Of course we are speaking of many Catholics like Fr. Hughes, who had already lost the Faith. Their way of “staying in the Church” was to become out and proud heretics in reality, while pretending that their “loyal” dissent represented the true spirit of Catholicism, so that they weren’t heretics at all.

    • Most of the converts from 1978 onward converted to the Cult of Wojtyla. Not the same as Catholicism. I have met and spoken with few that do not carry the infection of syncretism: attempting to mix Protestant presuppositions with Catholic doctrine.

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